proper terms


proper terms
proper terms
This is the technical name for terms denoting groups of animals and birds, such as flight (of swallows) and pride (of lions), and occasionally people. Some, such as herd, have more general application (e.g. to cows, sheep, and elephants), while others are peculiar to one context and are largely fanciful inventions that have been passed from one antiquarian writer to another without any real authority in usage (e.g. a siege of herons and a knob of waterfowl). The table below lists these in alphabetical order of the animal or bird concerned. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are recorded in special lists of proper terms that were popular in the 15c, notably the Book of St Albans attributed to Juliana Barnes (1486).
item / term
apes / shrewdness
asses / herd or *pace
badgers / *cete
bears / *sloth or *sleuth
bees / hive, swarm, drift, or bike
birds / flock or flight
boar / sounder
boys / blush
buffalo / herd or gang
cats / *clowder or *glaring
cattle / herd or drove
chickens / brood or *peep
colts / *rag or *rake
cooks / *hastiness
coots / *covert
cranes / herd
curlew / herd
deer / herd or mob
dogs / pack or kennel
doves / flight, *dole, or *piteousness
ducks / (on water) raft, bunch, or paddling; (in flight) team
elephants / herd
elk / herd or (AmE) gang
ferrets / *business
finches / charm or *chirm
fish / shoal
flies / cloud
foresters / *stalk
foxes / *skulk
geese / gaggle or (in the air) skein, team, or wedge
giraffes / herd
goats / flock, herd, or (dialect) trip
grouse / pack or covey
hares / *husk or *down
hawks / cast
hermits / *observance
herons / *siege
horses / team; (breeding) stud or *haras
hounds / kennel, pack, cry, or *mute
insects / flight or swarm
kangaroos / mob or troop
kittens / kindle
ladies / bevy
lapwing / *desert
larks / *exaltation or bevy
leopards / *leap
lions / pride
magpies / *tiding
mallard / *sord or *sute (= suit)
martens / *richesse
merchants / *faith
moles / *labour
monkeys / troop
mules / *barren
nightingales / *watch
nuns / *superfluity
partridges / covey
peacocks / *muster
pedlars / malapertness (= impertinence)
penguins / rookery
pheasants / head or (dialect) nye
pigeons / kit (flying together)
pigs / herd
plovers / stand, wing, or *congregation
porpoises / herd, pod, or school
prisoners / *pity
pups / litter
quail / bevy or drift
racehorses / string
ravens / *unkindness
roes / bevy
rooks / parliament or *building
seals / herd or rockery; pod (= small herd)
sheep / flock or herd; (dialect) drift or trip
sheldrake / *dropping
snipe / wisp or *walk
sparrows / *host
starlings / *murmuration
swallows / flight
swans / game or herd; wedge (in the air)
swine / herd; *sounder (tame), *drift (wild)
waterfowl / bunch or knob
whales / school, herd, or gam; pod (= small school)
widgeon / company or trip
wildfowl / bunch, trip, or plump; knob (less than 30)
wolves / pack or *rout
women / gaggle (derisive)
woodcock / *fall
wrens / herd

Modern English usage. 2014.

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